Thu, Jan 03, 2008 - Page 4 News List

James Huang on mission to salvage ties with Malawi

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Amid speculation that Malawi might severe its 41-year-long diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of China, Minister of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) James Huang (黃志芳) left for the African country late last night, sources said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, ministry sources said the effort by Huang indicated that Taipei might be able to salvage ties with its longtime ally.

Huang had planned to visit Malawi last month when the ministry learned that China had offered it a US$6 billion financial package in exchange for diplomatic recognition.

In response, a delegation of Malawi officials was dispatched to China later last month.

MOFA instead sent Vice Minister Yang Tzu-pao (楊子葆) and African Affairs Department Director Chang Yun-ping (張雲屏) to deal with the rumors that Malawi would end diplomatic relations.

Late last month, several local newspapers in Malawi ran reports that Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika had sanctioned severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan while a delegation to Beijing led by Presidential Affairs Minister Davis Katsonga was set to sign a memorandum of understanding to pave the way for establishing diplomatic ties with China.

Mutharika, on the other hand, assured Taiwan during recent talks that his country's diplomatic relations with Taiwan remained stable, the ministry said.

Huang made a public call at the ministry's year-end press conference on Friday, saying that Malawi should "choose wisely" between Taiwan and Beijing.

He said Beijing was casting its covetous eyes on Malawi's natural resources, while relations with Taiwan offered trust, dependability and unwavering friendship that take the improvement of the living standards of Malawian into account.

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